German parent company of T-Mobile responds to privacy concerns in wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations

Deutsche Telekom, the German parent company of the mobile carrier T-Mobile, is releasing a new app for all its users that encrypts voice and text messages.

The company is acting on privacy concerns raised in the wake of the Snowden revelations with the creation of the app, which encrypts each voice or text exchange between two devices using a unique code.

The app will be officially unveiled at the CeBIT technology trade fair in Hanover, Germany, in mid-March. It is not yet clear when it will be made available to customers, but it will initially launch for Android phones and come to iOS devices later.

The service will be run by Deutsche Telekom’s enterprise unit T-Systems in co-operation with Germany’s Sichere Mobile Kommunikation mbH (GSMK), a provider of encrypted phone services and devices.

“To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time that a major network operator throws its full weight behind end-to-end mobile voice encryption,” GSMK’s chief executive, Bjoern Rupp, said on Monday.

“This is not just in the form of a specialised niche product, but in the form of a mass-market-compatible product that will be rolled out to all of its customers,” he told Reuters at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest annual phone industry conference.

Deutsche Telekom’s own secure communications unit provides handsets to the German government, such as the modified Android phone used by Angela Merkel. But the version of the “Merkelphone” that the company sells to private buyers costs €1,700, preventing widespread adoption.

Rene Obermann, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, has been vocal about the need for his company to throw itself behind privacy efforts. In November he went so far as to call, in an editorial in the FAZ newspaper, for Germany to wall its internet off from the US and to create Europe-only clouds. But critics point out that T-Mobile US, a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, has worked with American intelligence agencies in the past.

TheGuardian: 02/24/2014